It’s usually pretty easy to identify greatness in sport.
Players usually stand out for individual feats, or for even fitting into a system that achieved some degree of excellence.
I suppose it’s especially appropriate to discuss such things right now considering that the Olympics just kicked off along with $4 Billion worth of human rights’ violations!
Well…keeping on with the sarcasm, I bring you RaptorsHQ’s All-Costanza Team, the best of the worst.
Yes, identifying excellence is one thing, but how about picking out the worst? And how about picking out the worst from a list that is way too long considering a franchise that has only existed for 13 short years?
Well…it’s not an easy job.
But it’s August and someone’s gotta stir up the pot right?
So here it is…five starters and a bench crew not worthy of the NBDL…or any AUAA team for that matter…
PG: Milt Palacio. Let’s start with the floor general…or in this case, the anti-general. There were quite a few options at this spot and Rafer Alston, Rick Brunson, Rod Strickland (remember we had him for a cup of coffee?), and Darrick Martin were all thrown around for various reasons...and that’s not factoring in the interesting hopes we had for the back-up spot like Carlos Arroyo, Andre Barrett and Omar Cook, an HQ favourite.
But Palacio takes the cake.
Good ol’ Milt was a product of the late Vince Carter era, when essentially MLSE was trying to do whatever they could to placate the falling star. This meant bringing on the likes of Milt and basically any other Vince buddies to keep the franchise player happy. Problem was, Milt might have had some game off the court as a wingman for Vince, but on the court, he was about as useful as an air conditioner in an igloo. To this day, I’ve never seen a professional basketball player blow more lay-ups; it was as if he was literally hurling the basketball at the backboard!! And it wasn’t like his court sense or long-range shooting made up for this either.
But hey, don’t take my word for it.
SG: Chris Jeffries. Once again, there are a few good options at this spot but Jeffries is the one that sticks out for me above the likes of Vincenzo Esposito and Negelle Knight. For the life of me, I could never understand why Toronto drafted him. I mean, at least I could see the "upside" in guys like Alex Radojevic. But Jeffries? Yes he was a First-Team All-WAC defensive team member and a solid player after transferring to Arkansas, but guys like Carlos Boozer, Juan Carlos Navarro, Luis Scola, Rasual Butler, Flip Murray and Matt Barnes were still on the board when Jeffries was selected. Hell, even eventual "Banger Brothers" Robert Archibald and Lonny Baxter were available!
Jeffries was just not an NBA player and while Toronto was drafting for the Lakers at the bottom of the first round, I just hated this pick from the moment it was made. We’re not quite talking Hoffa hate here, but to anyone who saw Jeffries play in college, he just wasn’t the tough, gritty wingman or deadly long-range shooter that Toronto needed at the time. He lasted less than two season in Toronto before being mercifully moved to the Bulls.
SF: Lamond Murray. This one was my easiest choice. Was there ever a bigger bust in Raptors history besides maybe Hakeem in terms of expectations? At least Hakeem was 100 years old and quite possibly over the hill when he was acquired! But Murray had just come off a season with the Cleveland Cavaliers where he put up nearly 17 points and five rebounds a game! He was expected to be the offensive sparkplug next to Vince that the Raptors desperately sought, and possibly the missing piece to get Toronto back in the mix with the Eastern Conference elite.
Instead, he got injured almost immediately, and even when he returned he was virtually useless. He was a chucker in every sense of the word and for someone who was a season removed from being one of the league’s best scorers, you’d have never known it.
In fact, let’s dig a little deeper here.
Can’t you almost trace Toronto’s descent into the NBA basement back to the Lamond Murray deal? If Toronto hadn’t dealt for Lamond then even when the team started to struggle, at least they would have had the first round pick they used to acquire Murray from the Cavs. That would have given them a third shot at Danny Granger in the 2005 draft!
(Ok…on second thought, Toronto could have had 29 of the 30 picks that year and they still probably wouldn’t have chosen him.)
But you see my point.
Murray was acquired along with a second round pick from the Cavs in exchange for Yogi Stewart (more on him in a minute) and the Raps first-rounder in 05 at the start of the 2002 season…the very year the team missed the playoffs for the first time in three seasons and fell into a string of four consecutive seasons of under 35 wins.
However, it wasn’t all bad with Mr. Murray. He did do a great job in the local community as Howland and I saw him a number of times supporting Toronto’s finest aerobic dance establishment, the Brass Rail…
PF: Yogi Stewart. Now it gets tougher. The 4 and 5 spots are just littered with busts but Mr. Stewart gets the nod. Check the stats:
In four seasons with the Raps, Stewart averaged 1.4 points, 2.0 rebounds.
And he was paid almost $4 Million a season to do that.
Considering he averaged about eight minutes a game over his career in Toronto, that means he was essentially paid $500,000 a minute every time he took the court.
To further elevate Yogi’s status as the starting power forward on our squad, anyone remember how Glen Grunwald signed Stewart as a free-agent to a one-year $1 Million deal, complete with a "handshake agreement" to offer him a longer contract the following season? You may have blocked this out and it’s probably a good thing. Stewart was the original Carlos Boozer without any of the talent and after an underwhelming first season with Toronto, Grunwald unfortunately kept his word and signed Yogi to a ridiculous six-year $24 Million dollar deal!
And we all know what happened after that.
Stewart made smiling and yawning in a suit on the bench an official spectator sport for Raptors’ fans and considering the team’s play during the Yogi era, sometimes it was more interesting to watch him than the on-court product.
C: Rafael Araujo. And finally, we come to the 5 spot. This was by far the toughest choice and for those who thought Rasho was not exactly a great option at center in comparison with the rest of the league, take a gander at some of the previous inhabitants of Nesterovic’s position:
Michael Bradley (4/5)
Are you kidding me? I’m supposed to choose only ONE name from this list? In the end, I went with Hoffa but let’s just say Moiso, Woods, Bateer, McCoy and O’Sullivan were all close behind.
However Hoffa takes the cake considering he:
a) Looked like a complete bust before he was even drafted
b) Was a wasted high first round pick when Toronto needed a serious boost in talent and
c) Gave a new meaning to the term "lack of offensive skills."
In fact forget offensive skills, anyone remember when Howland and I were just hoping for the magic sixes from Hoffa? Yep, there was a point when he and I acknowledged that we’d be thrilled if Araujo could just manage six point and six rebounds a game before he picked up six fouls.
Even Loren Woods could do that at times.
Additionally, only one other top 8 pick in the past 10 years has left the league quicker than Hoffa besides those who have suffered serious injuries (Jason Williams etc.) That player is none other than uber-bust Nikoloz Tskitishvili and while it wasn’t Hoffa’s fault he was drafted this high, it doesn’t change the fact that his ineptitude at the position was nearly unmatched.
As mentioned, you could really have a complete bench full of power forwards and centers and still create an NBDL team with the leftovers there were so many busts at these spots. But for sake of discussion, we’re going to try and balance things out with a back-up point guard, a combo guard, a few forwards, and then the bigs.
6. Rick Brunson (G) – Brunson was a proverbial third-stringer who thought he was a starter in the league. The real highlight during his tenure with the Raptors was the establishment of the classic website, RickBrunson.com.
7. Kornel David (F) – Yes he’s the first and only Hungarian player to play in the NBA. No, he was not good. I mean, he was signed by the Bulls on October 1, 1997 and cut 27 days later. Then they brought him back for a second go-round in 1999 and cut him within the year! Toronto grabbed him in August of 2000 but moved him about six months later to the Pistons. As a Raptor, he was hardly an All-Star candidate and even in limited minutes never ceased to have me pulling at my hair.
8. Loren Woods (C) – Woods had an amazing college career but was absolutely awful as an NBA’er. He lacked the size or strength to be effective at his position and was a walking foul problem. It’s always funny to look back and remember his dominance in the paint in his first two games as a Dino considering how things went after that.
9. Dan O’Sullivan (PF/C) – Moving from one foul machine to another, we have Dan O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan had a solid college career at Fordham and played with the Raptors during the 1995-95 season after brief stints with the Jazz, Nets, Bucks and Pistons. He was one of those "fill out your bench" types but on a terrible Raptors squad, this was a player who played way more than he should have.
10. Jimmy Oliver (G) – Anyone remember Oliver’s career with the Raps as a combo guard? Nope? Probably a good thing…
11. Jerome Moiso (PF/C) – Moiso was absolutely the most frustrating player to watch for me in Raptors history. Sam Mitchell must have felt the same way as Moiso to this day is the only player I’ve ever heard Mitchell go off on at length to the media about.
12. Vincenzo Esposito (G) – I’ll never forget in one of Esposito’s first games when Leo Rautins exclaimed "now here’s a guy who can really shoot it," only to see Esposito hoist up a brick almost on cue. That’s pretty much how the rest of his Raptors’ tenure went as well.
Injured Reserve: Mengke Bateer (Frankenstein in a basketball jersey), Jelani McCoy (D League 4 Life!), and Mamadou N’Diaye (the original Saer Sene.)
Whew...what a list.
I guess I can put the scotch down now and return to thinking about the current Raptors' crew.
Just imagine trying to do a list like this for the Grizzlies!